A special election to fill an Atlanta school board seat likely will take place Sept. 17, though nobody seems very happy about the wait.
The election date means residents who live in the board’s central Atlanta District 2 will have been without a representative for more than seven months by the time voters pick someone to fill the remainder of Byron Amos’ term, which expires Dec. 31, 2021.
City Council on Monday set the stage for a September school board election to fill the vacancy, with an Oct. 15 runoff, if needed. Candidates would qualify for the election between July 8 and 10.
It will cost Atlanta Public Schools up to $550,000 to hold the special election.
Council still needs to finalize the September date, but Monday’s action closed the door on the possibility of a June election. Municipal clerk and elections superintendent Foris Webb III, who recommended the later of two available dates, said more time would help ensure a smooth election.
Several officials expressed dismay that the school board seat would go unfilled for so long.
School board Chairman Jason Esteves had urged council members to schedule the election as soon as possible, though the school board did not directly advocate for a June date.
Esteves said families who live in central Atlanta need to be represented, and because the board currently has an even eight members, tie votes are possible. A tie vote means the action being considered by the board is defeated.
Ultimately, council members appeared persuaded that a later date is the best choice.
“I think this is a difficult situation where we don’t want voters to be disenfranchised and not have a representative, but we also have to make sure that our election has integrity,” said council member Jennifer Ide during a Monday meeting.
Webb told council members that if the election took place in June, there wouldn’t be “enough time to do all the logistical due diligence.”
Amos announced in late January he would leave the school board to run for city council. At its Feb. 4 meeting, the school board approved a resolution calling for a special election to fill the vacant seat.
Webb told council members APS didn’t provide formal notification of the vacancy until six weeks later, on March 19, and said officials were “obstructed” by that delay.
Esteves said APS officials were in discussions for weeks with the clerk about the cost and timing of the election.
“We publicly called for the vote. It’s on the city clerk to then make arrangements for that to happen,” Esteves said. “We had been in discussion for weeks. It was not a secret that we called for the election.”
On April 2, Webb wrote to Fulton County’s director of registration and elections Richard Barron asking if a June election was feasible, according to emails obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Barron replied that same day, describing it as “a tight timeline.”
“If anything goes amiss, especially considering the appeal deadline and when early voting starts, we will be unable to achieve this. One day’s delay could jeopardize the beginning of early voting. Do the council and APS realize that if anything negative happens with this timeline early voting could be delayed, which would violate statute?” Barron wrote.
The school board is not planning to appoint someone to fill the seat in the interim, Esteves said.
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